Creatives + Business = An Inspiring Community

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

It could be a great partnership. Can we make it happen?

I’m excited about the flurry of redevelopment and positive energy around our city recently: the successful return of the small business incubator Project Pop-Up, which has enlivened Ninth Street’s corridor; the opening of Harlan Flats residences on Justison Street; not one but two locations of an iconic coffee company (Now we’ve truly arrived!); the ribbon-cutting for the multi-location Market Street Village retail and residence project. Combine all this with the steady buzz that the arts and culture scene has generated, and you see that Wilmington is reaching a significant point in its revitalization.

Wilmington artists, arts and culture organizations have long been some of the city’s greatest champions—and key drivers in its vitality. Numerous individual artists and organizations large and small are committed to Wilmington as their “home base.” They celebrate being a part of the city and believe in its potential. They create and promote some of the very best parts of Wilmington through music, dance, spoken word and visual arts.

There is also exciting momentum for cultivating, expanding and promoting arts and culture in Wilmington—most notably in the large-scale project of The Creative District, but also with programs like Gable Music and World Cafe Live at the Queen’s Wilmo Wednesdays performance showcases and soon-to-reappear Block Party events from the IN Wilmington Campaign.

All of us—residents, non-residents (I like to call us “Wilmington enthusiasts”), business and property owners, elected and appointed officials—should embrace and support these efforts at every level. They bring more opportunities for people to live, work and play in Wilmington.

There is much potential in downtown Wilmington that has yet to be tapped. There are underutilized buildings, lots and spaces, and there are occupied spaces that could be improved, and attract more traffic, with just a little out-of-the-box thinking. There are artists and art organizations—especially those small in size—that often seek space to present their work. Some don’t have the funding to purchase a building outright or pay high rental fees; other organizations don’t require a “permanent” home. But all have a need for a space in which to create.

In the past, downtown has been host to imaginative and effectively executed events such as Fringe Wilmington, Downtown Visions’ Music Garden series and Art on the Town. While these projects are ongoing and successful, we should work collectively to connect even more downtown business and property owners with artists to develop regular programming or “pop-up” events within their spaces. Think house concerts or coffee house setups, pop-up art exhibits, even “flash mob” performances. Keep the collective energy flowing, provide more experiences to drive more people downtown, and give artists and smaller arts organizations affordable and distinctive options to put their work “out there.”

I’d love to see more of this happen…how about you? Are you an artist? Tell me what your needs are. Do you own property in the city? Let’s talk about what you might be able to offer to some of Wilmington’s most talented. Are you a public servant? Maybe you can help connect the dots between the two.

These efforts together can surely create something even greater for Wilmington. Until then, you can find me here: mfitzgerald@artsinmedia.com or @ArtsinMedia. In the  meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.